Saturated Fats in Dairy and Meat Products Aren’t As Unhealthy As Previously Believed

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A study has found that saturated fats found in dairy and meat products aren’t as detrimental for our health as formerly thought.

Major research into the health risks of fats in our diets has been unsuccessful in discovering a link between foods that contain saturated fats (e.g. cream, eggs and chocolate) and higher risk of death by heart disease, type-2 diabetes or stroke.

The study did discover that ‘trans-fats’ correlate with a heightened risk of death from heart disease. These fats come from hydrogenated oils and used the production of margarine, packaged baked products and snack foods.

These latest findings can be found in the British Medical Journal. They seem to verify the increasing recognition that the established health advice from the past 50 years to cut down on products rich in saturated fats (e.g. cheese and butter) may be somewhat misguided.

The study was carried out in Canada by Russell de Souza of McMaster University in Ontario. Colleagues failed to find an association between ill health and saturated fats, but they did find a connection with foods containing trans-fats, e.g. margarine.

Researchers found that eating industrial trans-fats was linked to a 34% increase in mortality causes, a 28% increase in coronary heart disease related to heart disease and a 21% increase in the threat for heart disease diagnosis.

Despite failing to find a connection between premature death and ill health risk and consuming saturated fats, Dr de Souza did warn against taking the results of the study as a go ahead to eat more milk chocolate, eggs, meat and dairy foods.

He said that we have been advised to cut fats out of our diet for many years and trans-fats do not have health benefits. He went on to say that they pose a clear heart disease threat, but it is less significant in the case of saturated fats. Having said that, he stressed that he isn’t calling for an increase in the consumption of saturated fats in our dietary guidelines because there is no evidence to suggest increased limits would be beneficial to our health.

The present dietary guidelines advocate that saturated fats should be limited to less than 10% of our daily energy intake, and trans-fats should be limited to less than 1%. This is said to decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease.

The latest study confirms the conclusions of 5 preceding systematic reviews of the theoretical link between heart disease and trans-fats and saturated fats, but Dr de Souza warns that it doesn’t warrant a change in the guidelines.

He said that if people are told to eat less trans-fats or saturated fats, a better choice should be offered. The review was not able to determine as much evidence as he would have liked for a best-replacement choice.